An Old Testament story from I Chronicles describing the Israelites’ extreme generosity in giving their personal valuables for the building of the temple, filling the leaders with joy, caught my attention.
First known use of the word generosity in our language:1566. Dictionary synonyms:
- giving money or goods
Expanded definitions—shades of various forms of the kindnesses of generosities: Provision of physical care: generosity with information and encouragement. Assistance and presence unselfishly shared by family/neighbors/strangers. Sharing Expertise: rescuers who generously risk their lives to bring strangers to safety. Students receiving facts, figures and understanding from teachers, professors, mentors. Listening: patient/sensitive listening and encouragement from counselors. Writers whose long hours of creativity offer hours of joy. Letters/cards and notes generously expressing love and celebration with no thought of return.
While in the throes of focusing on the connection between generosity and joy, I ran the idea across my siblings gathered for a reunion where as usual, our conversation centered around our mother. She not only sacrificed to raise four of us six children alone starting from scratch financially which revealed her generosity but in her quiet wisdom she placed value on each of us shedding impressive light on the receivers which is captured in the following story.
“Ruthie, do you remember when we wanted to give Mom something for her birthday besides our home-made cards? Mac asked. “We were exploring the meadow, as usual, behind the house and instead of finding keeper rocks we stumbled onto a new trash pile. We were probably six and seven years old”. Together, he and I marveled how Mom trusted us to be out of her sight, but we understood she had a new baby to care for, so she may not have given us permission, necessarily, but we felt very independent and free. “Do you recall how excited we were as we dug around the trash?”, Mac recalled? “I do remember.” “And I was ecstatic when I found the wall large match-box holder, Mac crowed.” “Yeah, and I pulled out that shiny dipper”, I added. A treasure trove for sure.
Mac’s and my discoveries ended the hiking trip and we almost skipped home carrying new possessions. Two happy kids. Mac scrubbed the dirt from the matchbox holder while I shined up the dipper. Then Mac shared something I had never heard. “Every time I’d see that large match-box holder on the kitchen wall, I was impressed that Mom valued something I had given her, so much that I would get an inner warm joy”, he said, “And years later, to see it put up in another rent-house kitchen, the warm inner feeling would return. Mom’s generous value placed on me has given me joy that has lasted 80 years”, Mac added.
The unspoken generosity of value. Something we can all give everyday we live.
In thinking about how generosity leads to joy, the account in the “How ‘Bout That” blog about friends rescuing us from car trouble fit right in considering Johnnie’s wife. Phyllis’s generosity has left a lasting impression on me. She not only dropped everything to give us the physical care that we needed, but when she drove us over to the station where repairs were being made, she didn’t just drop us off, but spent five hours sitting with us patiently waiting. She valued our friendship which streamed joy to me.
The generosity of waiting-being present.
We’ve all been there: at viewings where people are crying, uncertain, lost, weary, scared, sad and quiet.
A friend attended a funeral of an acquaintance who’d lost her husband. “When I noticed she was sitting all alone, I was impressed to take a seat by her. As an introvert, I don’t converse easily and I had nothing to say that would comfort her, so I just sat by her. I took her hand, squeezed it and patted it, but said nothing. Later, when the widow was saying goodbye to visitors, she came over to me and said, ‘Thank you for being here. You’ve helped me so much.’ I was surprised that just sitting by her helped.”
We can all practice the generosity of being present, another way of transmitting value to a person.
In our topsy-turvy world of financial and political unrest, I’m impressed by a nurse friend who puts her family’s medical, physical and financial needs on hold while she gives her vacation-time to participate in a mission trip to the hills of Kentucky to bring relief and joy to strangers as the group paints, repairs and meets their spiritual needs. She will ultimately engender a warm sense of self-worth as she unselfishly shares the love of God who has given her desire and strength to encourage others. There are many who are sacrificially involved in ministries all over the world. Not everyone is willing to help strangers.
A self-employed woman who has become a citizen shared that her country of origin teaches extending help only to their families, never strangers. She is amazed when people use their time, expertise and money to help strangers. She marvels at the generosity of our government. Jim preached that “Strangers are just friends we haven’t met”.
As I checked out of a return-visit to a motel recently, the clerk on duty said, “Oh, I remember that you were going to a reunion down on the border after several days of travel. How was it.” After I shared a few things, I told her that she had just valued me by listening, bringing me joy and hopefully she received joy from listening”. She was delighted with the concept of her listening leading to joy. “I listen to people all day long”, she said. “It’s really good to know that I’m spreading a little joy.”
The insight that’s been swirling around in my head the last few weeks has made me become acutely aware of the many connections between generosity and joy. The following list puts it into a nutshell. Perhaps it will help you to determine what others have been giving to you, and possibly pinpoint what you’ve also been doing all along, or possibly suggest an area that you might develop.
Generosity and Joy work when we:
Value the gifts of those who give money, time and expertise
Value those who take time to listen carefully
Value the relief from what people do physically
Value the things people say to comfort or encourage
Value the quiet presence of friends or other concerned people
Value what we learn from listening
Value how we grow spiritually from what we read
Value smiles, hugs or handshakes
Value phone calls, cards, notes, letters, texts and emails
All the above exude warm joy from the giver to the receiver.
God’s presence, friendship and kindness is the best source of steady streams to our deepest joy.
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother/sister, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:7 (NIV). May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom 15:13 (NIV).